Play-in-a-Day: The War on Women
By Daria Sommers
The nightmare of anti-women rhetoric and legislation unleashed by the republican victories in 2010 midterm elections has all but exhausted my power of outrage and disbelief. Government mandated vaginal probes? Bayer aspirin as contraception? Single motherhood as the cause of today’s biggest social ills? If tomorrow someone suggested a constitutional amendment declaring women as property, well, I confess, I would not be surprised. I almost expect it. In this election year, it is hard to thwart that creeping sense of despair.
But after attending the Culture Project’s boisterous “Play-in-a-Day” program last night, I felt, as I think many in the audience did, wonderfully renewed for the fight ahead. As part of the IMPACT 2012: Festival of Political Art, 11 short plays were presented, each addressing different aspects of the War on Women but with a wonderful twist. Each of the participating playwrights was given only 16 hours to write their plays along with a subject prompt from the most recent news cycle to focus their imaginations. The directors and actors had another 9 hours to stage and fine-tune the performances. Then curtain time.
The evening experience, sometimes rough around the edges (although not as much as you would think given the 25 hour turn around) and other times smooth as silk, was extraordinarily refreshing, particularly in the plays that effectively incorporated elements from recent news cycles into their story lines. Cecilia Copeland’s Madonna, Brittany, and PUSSY RIOT, a subway discussion between two women over who was the real artist, Madonna or Brittany Spears, smoothly worked in the news that Pussy Riot, the Russian Feminist Punk Rock Group, had just received jail sentences while Kanene Holder’s hilarious and wicked Michele Bachman impersonation in Michele Bachman’s No Good Very Very Bad Day called her out on her hate speech in light of the horrifying shooting at the Sikh Temple in Wisconsin.
The evening ended with a brilliantly hysterical monologue by Eboni Hogan called Are You Mom Enough? during which she plays a young mother of two who disintegrates from the super mom, only the best for my child, helicopter parent syndrome to the I’ve had it with this thankless job and everyone who expects me to do it perfectly realist all mothers know, love and recognize.
Are You Mom Enough? was a pitch perfect way to end the evening (and deserves, along with a few other pieces to be further developed and presented elsewhere) because the War on Women is all about control over our bodies, our reproductive systems and, as Janice Maffei’s piece Adventures in New Territory explores (through one Louisiana Charter School’s policy to force girls they think might be pregnant girls to leave), over our thoughts as well.
Daria Sommers is a writer and filmmaker. She is the co-director and co-producer, with Meg McLagan, of Lioness, winner of the Center for Documentary Studies Filmmaker Award at the Full Frame Film Festival in 2008 and broadcast on Independent Lens as well as Eastern Spirit Western World, broadcast by PBS, BBC and CBC and Ready To Burn, recipient of Panavision’s New Director’s Award. Among her current projects is the Vermont Rap Lab Media Project, a series of short films on the poet/writer Jay Stevens’ work with troubled teens. Her work has received support from the NEH, the Sundance Documentary Fund, the Fledgling Fund and Chicken & Egg Pictures.
Learn more about Daria’s film, Lioness, co-directed and co-produced with Meg Mclagan, at www.lionessthefilm.com.